State Sponsored Vandalism
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by Cathal McCarthy
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On Wednesday afternoon, 17th June 2009, the following note was delivered to the residents of Delemege Park, Moyross:


Moyross Residents Forum Ltd
Sorry to have missed you.
Following consultation and requests to have the boarded up
houses demolished

We wish to inform you that houses number 52, 53
and 54 in your area will be demolished early
tomorrow morning Wednesday 17th June. Sorry for
any inconvenience caused.

Tracy McElligott

Moyross Residents Forum Ltd 0879184823

The date on the note was obviously wrong, a 'type-o' perhaps. The statement that "Following consultation and requests to have the boarded up houses demolished" was also wrong. There had indeed been requests to knock derelict houses, but there had also been requests to open vacant houses by the Moyross Residents' Alliance (MRA), and more specifically, to open houses number 52, 53 and 54 "in consultation and with the consent of residents".

The note was signed on behalf of the Moyross Residents' Forum Ltd (??), by Tracy McElligott, who is not a resident of Moyross. Ms. McElligott is however, a state-paid 'Community Worker'.

'Consulting' with the residents

Some weeks previous a meeting of the Moyross Residents Forum was held for the residents of Delemege Park to discuss derelict houses that were a source for anti-social behaviour in the area. I attended this meeting on the invitation of the MRA. It was a surreal experience, to say the least.

There was an objection to my presence by Chris Duhig, chairman of the residents forum for Delmege Park. However, others at the meeting said they wanted me to stay and questioned Mr. Duhig's position, asking who had voted for him to chair anything. A show of hands was called for and six people out of the 50+ in attendance indicated that they had elected Mr. Duhig.

The forums were set up and are controlled by the regeneration agencies and are little more than a means of claiming that everything is done in consultation with residents', regardless of how unrepresentative these forums actually are. For the sake of calm I agreed not to contribute to the meeting and remain silent. At the time I was unaware of the true purpose of the meeting.

The meeting itself was 'independently' chaired by Tony Lynch, chairman of the Castle Park residents' forum, but Tracey McElligott did most of the talking and skillfully tricked residents' into agreeing to knock "boarded up" houses in Delemege Park, a description that applies equally to both derelict and vacant houses. People at the meeting wanted a particular row of derelict houses at the entrance to Delemege Park demolished and readily agreed.

Tommy Daly attempted to present the MRA petition, (signed by the vast majority of residents' in Delemege Park) to open vacant houses, but Tracey McElligott refused to accept it or record its existence.

Depopulation - Repopulation

In 2008, the MRA provided Limerick City Council (LCC) and the Northside Regeneration Agency (NRA) with a list of Council Tenants in Moyross that were living next to derelict houses and who were willing to move into these vacant houses. This would have allowed LCC to knock whole blocks, which is considerably cheaper. To knock a derelict house that is connected to an occupied home costs €35,000 per house. But to knock a row of derelict/vacant houses costs €15,000 per house.

Numbers 52, 53 and 54 Delemege Park were in the middle of a terrace of five and were not derelict. Numbers 51 and 55 are homes to Council Tenants Frankie Ryan and Sandra O'Donoghue. They were also in the same square where Tommy Daly, Chairman of the MRA, lives.

"When I asked if the residents living at each end of the terrace had been consulted I was told they don't matter, they're only tenants" said Mr. Daly

"Last year, the MRA provided Limerick City Council and the Northside Regeneration Agency with a list of Moyross tenants who are willing to relocate to these houses. These people are living next to actual derelict houses and are enduring ongoing acts of anti-social behaviour," said Mr. Daly "Our depopulation / repopulation proposal could save the taxpayer millions of Euro, but the Northside Regeneration Agency won't even acknowledge our existence", he said.

Bully-boy tactics

No one, not even Tommy Daly, expected that the boarded up vacant houses in Friars Square would be targeted for demolition, especially as the MRA had organised a clean-up of the houses the week before.

Even I was shocked when Tommy contacted me and informed me that by chance he meet an LCC engineer who told him that they were going to knock the houses. Tommy issued a press release:

"Knocking these houses is an attempt to run down our area and demoralise the people living here. We are in the middle of a Community clean up to make our area look normal. We're sick of 'poverty tourists' coming in here and taking photos of the monk's graffiti. The place looked a holy show, so decided to organise a clean up and paint in windows and doors. We were only informed about the demolition on Monday; when an engineer came down to examine the houses. This will make the place look worse than ever and leave residents vulnerable to anti-social behaviour," said Mr. Daly

"Why aren't they targeting derelict houses for demolition? Why target these perfectly good houses when people are willing to live in them? We were told we could wait while our new houses were being built before any demolition would take place, that they would only knock derelict houses. It should be obvious to everyone that regeneration is nothing to do with people or Communities; it's all about land grabbing," said Mr. Daly. "They want to run the place down to run us out" he added.

Mr. Daly said that the majority of residents in Friars Square are opposed to the demolition and will take a class action against Limerick City Council and the Northside Regeneration Agency should they proceed.

"One of our residents is elderly and has a heart condition and is stressed out about the whole affair, no one from the Agency or the Council bothered to consult with him because he is a tenant. People are worried that houses will be knocked and the Agency will walk away with nothing built. I hope common sense prevails and people are put before profit. Our Community has suffered a lot and survived two murders in the same square. Now the Agency is trying to finish us of. As far as I'm concerned, they're the biggest gang of all," he concluded.

Tommy was referring to the murder of Frankie Ryan Jnr. and the more recent murder of Darren Bennett, whose parents live at either end of the vacant houses targeted for demolition.

Trying to stop the demolition

I contacted a solicitor, who met with me and Tommy on Wednesday 17th June. During our meeting we got word that the note was being delivered. The solicitor wrote a letter, threatening legal action if the houses were demolished, which we would hand deliver to LCC Director of Housing, Kieran Lehane, and to Regeneration CEO, Brendan Kenny.

Neither the MRA or Limerick Regeneration Watch had the funding to persue any such legal action, but we hoped that the threat of legal action would suffice.

Our first port of call was Kieran Lehane in City Hall. His secretary claimed that he was in a meeting, but we suspected otherwise. Entering through the staff door, we found Mr. Lehane sitting at his desk. He claimed to have no knowledge of which houses were being knocked in Delemege Park, but said that residents' had agreed to such demolition's at a recent meeting. We delivered the solicitor's letter.

We didn't manage to track down Mr. Kenny, but we did speak to him on the phone. He claimed not to have any power to stop demolition's and also said that the residents' had agreed to it. I asked him when residents' could expect their new homes to be built he told me that there would be no houses built in Delemege Park, that it was going to be a commercial area.

I didn't get to deliver the solicitor's letter to Mr. Kenny until the following day and by then it was too late. I had a brief conversation with Mr. Kenny during which he implied that Tommy Daly had a hand in breaking the window of a resident who supported the demolition. When questioned further he said that the resident seemed to think so.

Tommy Daly has personally intervened and prevented youths from breaking the windows of his neighbours on numerous occasions. As it turned out, the resident referred to by Mr. Kenny contacted Tommy to say that he had never made such a statement and that he in fact knew the youth that had broken his window; he had hoped that the regeneration agency could help him replace the window. Several more windows were to be broken that day, but not because of anti-social behaviour.

State Sponsored Vandalism

On Thursday. 18th June 2009, at 5am the trucks rolled in with a Garda escort fit for the president. Parked cars were removed without informing the owners. Residents' were woken from their beds.

First the boundary walls, fences and gates were knocked. Then the boarding was removed to reveal perfectly good double-glazed windows and doors, which were later ripped out and smashed by the mechanical arm of a digger.

As I've said already, numbers 52, 53 and 54 Delemege Park were in the middle of a terrace of five and were not derelict. Numbers 51 and 55 are homes to Council Tenants Frankie Ryan and Sandra O'Donoghue. Both are the parents of murdered children.

During the demolition, the TV cable was cut. When Sandra O'Donoghue enquired of one of the demolition crew if it would restored when they were finished, she was told "fuck off or you'll be arrested". She was visibly upset and began to cry. She had hoped that if the houses were opened that her late son might get one.

At the other end of the terrace, Frankie Ryan remained in doors until it was safe to come out. When he did he was almost hit by a 'safety' fence that was knocked over by a digger removing rubble.

In any other European country, these tenants would have been put up in a hotel until the work was over. But seemingly in Ireland its okay to treat people from regeneration areas differently.

Given the current economic climate, the demolition of these houses was little more than an act of State sponsored vandalism.

But the story doesn't end there. The MRA, with help from the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, have transformed the area where the houses once stood into a memorial park. The work is on-going and should be finished by summer 2010.

- Cathal McCarthy


Most of the pictures were taken on Thursday, 18th June 2009
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